Monday, 29 March 2010

The Agony Of The Ecstasy

"Teeeeacher!" Nazli is halfway out of her seat. She's had her hand up for the past minute, but I've been ignoring her. Nazli is a prime time-waster. She can find reasons for not bringing her homework, forgetting her book, wool gathering in class, and just about every other dubious thing you can imagine. I've taken Nazli's mobile phone off her so often it's become the class joke.

"What is it, Nazli?" I say in This had better be good tones.

"We go --" she stops to consult with a classmate "--auditorium?"

"Why should we want to go to the auditorium?"

Another whispered consultation. "Special meeting."

I'm skeptical, but the others nod and echo special meeting. Uzay, as big a time waster as Nazli, nods emphatically. "Very important meeting!"

During the break, I nip downstairs to the coordinators' office and find out that there really is a lecture we're supposed to take our students to, on addiction. I feel like screaming. This class needs English reading and writing, not lectures in Turkish. The last one I had to take them to was on sexually transmitted diseases and it was a real yawner. The doctor who gave it didn't look as if she'd had sex since Woodstock. She talked in an unrelenting monotone and showed slides with squiggly bacteria and hard-to-see viruses.

"I'll take attendance in the auditorium," I announce to the class, to cheers of delight.

I am sorry to say that the lecture is every bit as awful as I imagined it would be. Where do they dig up these speakers? Even back when I was in high school, our school brought in people with real, hands-on drug experience, ex-alcoholics and past users with more than a textbook knowledge of the subject.

Sitting there with my students, a captive audience, I feel irritated and frustrated with this woman who rattles off the names of addictive substances as though they're a long, dry laundry list. We are shown slides of healthy vs diseased liver and lung tissue, slides and statistics. There is no dialogue, no attempt to engage or involve. If she has managed to work in a mention how drugs ruin lives, I can't figure out where.

Barely ten minutes into the lecture, right in the middle of opiates, students start leaving. I see Nazli sneaking down the aisle. The girl next to me gives me a sidelong glance. "Teacher, very boring!" she whispers. "Is this more boring than my classes?" I scrawl on a slip of paper. She scowls at the paper and her face breaks into a big smile. Yes! she writes back.

Whew. It's not just me!

Next, we are treated to a slide that shows morphine being heated in a spoon held over a candle -- always wondered how they did it and now I know -- followed by a snowy white pile of cocaine that stays on the screen for ages. More students get up to leave, including Uzay, who I know to be a chain smoker. The speaker pauses for a good, long time on a display of Ecstasy tablets. I had no idea that Ecstasy came in so many shapes, sizes, and colors, with so many patterns stamped on them, like pats of butter in a fancy restaurant. We are shown slide after slide of Ecstasy tablets, at least a hundred on each one, in endless array, with an accompanying monologue that is far less interesting than the pictures, which are graphically pleasant but not riveting. I am tired of Ecstasy. Bored to death of it. I wish we could move on!

More students leave.

And suddenly there is a great slide, utterly compelling. There is a collective gasp of horror as we all look at before and after photographs of crystal meths users. If these photos don't put off potential crystal meths users, I don't know what will. If she'd shown this slide at the beginning of her talk, nobody would have walked out. This literally puts a human face on addiction. We shake our heads to see how healthy, beautiful people turn into haggard ghouls in just a few years. All too quickly these slides are removed and we're back to piles of confiscated drugs, statistics, drug-related paraphernalia.

Yaaaawn. More students get up to leave and I throw in the towel and follow them, leaving the good, obedient students -- aka the converted -- to be preached to.

On my way out, I practically trip over Uzay who is standing in the entrance with a few pals.

And they all have cigarettes.


Bish Denham said...

And it's not like these subjects couldn't made compelling, as with those before/after photos, there's plenty to grab the attention. Too bad. Kids seem to need to be shocked awake rather than gently shaken.

Marcia said...

The doctor who gave it didn't look as if she'd had sex since Woodstock.


And then comes the sadness of the photos. My goodness, why didn't she lead off with them?

Robert the Skeptic said...

The the most memorable assemblies I recall from grade school were the ones about the most taboo of subjects - sex education.

Of course they only went into how a girls and boys bodies mature, what happens when a sperm meets an ovum (but not how it gets there) and finished up with stern cautionary advice against what we weren't supposed to do (what exactly was never quite clear). I really paid attention at those assemblies but to no avail. It would take my friend Steve's dad's discarded Playboys to fill in the information gaps.

Blythe said...

"I am tired of Ecstacy." That's a whole modern novel right there.

A very wealthy man decided he was going to end Meth use in Montana. (My hometown, Billings, has been called "The Meth capital of America"--but so has every other dot on the map between the Mississippi and the West Coast.) TV spots that rival slip-and-fall PSAs in New Zealand for graphic gore. (After spending a month in New Zealand I was a vigilant toy-picker-upper, bath-skid-mat-user, and terrified of glass coffee tables.) Teens were encouraged to paint barns with their own anti Meth slogans. Two blocks from our house a billboard with a picture of a little girl says "I had a daughter. Now I have a prostitute." Meth use has declined somewhat. The decline started prior to the campaign however. Teens mocked the ads for a while, but as far as I can tell they don't notice them at all anymore.

Kit said...

I remember us being shown photos of tobacco stained lungs at school, which had no effect on the hardened smokers in the toilets whatsoever. Other than that I think we were warned against joining the Moonies and that was it!

Mary Witzl said...

Bish -- Those photos are pretty mind boggling, and the ones the speaker found were even better than the ones I've linked to here. But she was on them and off them so fast I was really annoyed: they were great stuff and she could have started with them to much greater effect, especially compared to all those Ecstasy samples.

Marcia -- I felt a little mean writing that, but I can get away with it: no way will that woman visit my blog!

She really should have led with those before and after photos. The few teenagers I've known who have quit smoking have all done it to save their looks, not their health.

Robert -- The stuff they left out kept us up all nights trying to figure out, didn't it? I remember picturing an avocado seed rolling across the sheets to an unsuspecting woman, whose navel it then magically entered. If Santa Claus could fit through the smoke vent in our kitchen, an avocado seed could certainly pass through a woman's navel.

Blythe -- Can you imagine how people in this century would freak out if they were magically transported back to the 19th century with its open fires, precarious carriages, and half a zillion other hazards and not a lick of workers' compensation? Can you imagine what a coddled bunch our forefathers would find us with our health and safety guidelines, our litigious culture, our horror of germs and injury? To think that glass coffee tables scare us senseless when our great-grandparents could butcher their own meat and fight their own fires!

Getting through to teenagers about safe sex and substance abuse is a tall order for anyone, but I'm pretty sure that long, monotonic lectures aren't the way. Anti-meth slogans on barns sound pretty eerie and 21st century, don't they?

Kit -- We were shown those tainted lungs too and it meant nothing to us. I don't think high school students have a firm notion of mortality. Tell them something will make them look horrible and they'll be more inclined to listen.

Charlie said...

Those meth users are amongst the people I used to work with at the hospital. Thanks for posting them--I have a couple places I can use them.

Sex ed. No more wondering and speculating, now that we have the nets. I didn't figure it out until I was 18, but nowadays, deduct 10 years for parents who don't monitor their kids "surfing."

Robin said...

It sounds like Ectasy was misnamed. They should have called it Boringo. At least she threw in a couple of Crystal Meth Ghoulies for the crowd.

It's so sad when someone turns a perfectly interesting topic into boring tripe. She probably had to do the lecture as some sort of requirement, and didn't really put any heart into it. What bothers me is, doesn't she have any self respect? You can tell when an audience is horribly bored. That's supposed to freak you out. It would sting my pride if I bored an audience. In fact, I'd cry and wet my pants. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Mary Witzl said...

Charlie -- I hope that none of your former clients are on that website!

The internet has certainly provided the current generation with the answers to every question. The problem is, there's a lot of other stuff out there that, while informative, is not the sort of thing you want kids to have access to.

Robin -- I thought of you when I was sitting in that auditorium! You'd have been able to keep those kids well entertained, I know it. You're funny, which they love, you're hip, and you'd probably know how to talk about the subject in a way that didn't encourage or condemn drug use. Too bad you don't speak Turkish or live here -- I'd definitely recommend you for the next talk.

Falak said...

What a coincidence! We had a presentation put up in our class a few months back and but these weren't the exact same reactions! It was much more insightful since we had actual addicts and alcoholics come up and talk to us.I wrote about the same.....:)

kara said...

"Teeeeacher!" Nazli is halfway out of her seat.

I read that name as "Nazi", like, 3 times without even blinking. I don't know if that makes me a bad person or not.

Jacqui said...

"Tired of Ecstasy" is totally the name of my new novel about ennui...

Kim Ayres said...

If you want to frighten any of your students - send me a photo of one of them and I'll photoshop them into a meth user :)

Mary Witzl said...

Falak -- My kids' school in the U.K. was approached by a group of ex-addicts who wanted to tell kids about the evils of drugs. The principal turned down the offer. Some people said he felt it might give the kids ideas. When we were kids, our principal invited ex-addicts to tell us about their experiences. They all looked so haggard and scary, they didn't have to say a word to convince me.

Kara -- When I first saw her name on the roll sheet, it really gave me pause, just like when I first saw the word 'shiitake' on a menu (before I knew Japanese) I did a double take. Now I can see shiitake and Niazi and not think of expletives or skinheads.

Jacqui -- Doesn't it just sound so jaded? But I can honestly say I was bored stiff of ecstasy. And I'd LOVE to see it in a title!

Kim -- Oh wow, I'm SO tempted to send you a photo of Uzay. He says he's not a chain smoker, but he just reeks of stale tobacco. He's either in denial or a pathological liar. And he ought to see what his nicotine habit will do to him in ten years' time...

e said...

I'm still laughing at your description of the doctor...I could probably have done the job better, though not in Turkish...

I wonder what the kids will say back in your class?

Falak said...

Ha!You bet! Forgot to tell you but I loved the title of this post:)

Anonymous said...

The first question many people have about links london one way links is why are they so important.If you links of london compared two websites that had exactly the links jewellery same content but one of them had one hundred one way links versus none on the other site links of london uk you would see that the site with one way links had a much better cheap links of london ranking with each search engine. links of london bracelet The primary reason for this is there is no reason for one site links of london charms to link to another without a reciprocating link other than that links of london watches site determines that the website is an authority on it's given niche links of london rings A one way link is when a website links to another site without links of london necklaces asking for a reciprocal link back.

Anonymous said...

Great article.
Here is my weblog ... Hainan Airlines